Ep. 131 Escaping the 9 to 5 with Advita Patel

business help for women

In today’s episode, Anna speaks to Advita Patel in the latest in her escaping the 9 to 5 series.

Advita Patel left her career in internal communications to start her own consultancy, CommsRebel, in 2020. The unexpected consequences of COVID-19, however, led her to also co-found a second venture, A Leader Like Me, where she helps underrepresented women of colour achieve greater career success.

Escaping the 9 to 5 with Advita Patel

Advita is the Managing Director of CommsRebel, an internal communication and employee experience consultancy based in Manchester, U.K., the co-founder of A Leader Like Me, a global membership programme that helps underrepresented women of colour succeed further in their career and a co-host of an award-winning podcast called CalmEdgedRebels.

Advita helps organisations revolutionise the way they communicate with their workforce so they can create an inclusive culture where all colleagues can belong and understand the value, they bring to the organisation. She is also an experienced coach/mentor and works with teams and individuals to help them achieve their goals with confidence.

Advita is a chartered PR practitioner, a Board Director and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. In 2020 she was named on the Northern Asian Top 100 powerlist and on the top 101 list for Inspiring Workplaces as one of the global influencers for employee experience.

You can connect with Advita on her website and on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate

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Transcript:

Anna: Hello, everybody. Welcome back. And this month for this month’s interview, I’m here with Advita Patel. Advita and I have just met each other virtually in a Mastermind that we’ve joined or I joined a couple of months ago, so Advita thank you so much for your time today and I’d love to hear from you if you could tell us all, what were you doing previously in your career and what are you doing today?

Advita:             Thank you, Anna. Thank you for inviting me today. I used to work in internal communications and I still do, but I worked in-house. Internal communications for those who are listening who don’t know what that is, it’s basically working with leaders and CEOs in organisations to make sure that the messages that they’re communicating to their people are understood and that people who work in the organisation can also communicate back up the chain if you want to call it that.

And I’ve properly simplified that. So if there are any internal communicators listening to that, they’re going to be shaking their head in and what the hell is she describing there? But that’s the simplest term. It’s just to make sure that the communication lines between leaders and people who work in the organisation are clear and people know what they’re doing, so they work better and feel engaged in the work that they’re doing as well in the organisation.

So I started in that career after completing a master’s in marketing. Prior to that, I worked in IT. I did a degree in IT, but it was around the time when I graduated, there was a huge dot-com crash, and they were not hiring people. They definitely weren’t hiring women. They definitely weren’t hiring Asian women for one thing anyway, not in the UK. So I ended up doing a job that was sold to me as a IT job, but actually, it was a glorified data inputter which I hated because I had to work in silence for a majority of the day.

I know, I know. Can you imagine?

Anna:               That’s horrible.

Advita:             And my boss was really mean to me because she wouldn’t let me listen to my music because I was slow at data inputting. So I was literally sat in silent when everybody else around me was with headphones in. Then I decided that I can’t work in this environment anymore. It just doesn’t fit. It’s not bringing me any joy whatsoever. So like many, I went off and got an admin job, trying to discover my life. I was 23 at the time. And then I got mentored by an amazing woman called [Catherine 00:02:45] who encouraged me to pursue a career in marketing because she said I had a natural knack for it.

So I did my master’s part-time in strategic marketing while working full-time. And then the first job I applied for after I got my master’s was a marketing officer role but in fact, when I started that role, it was internal communications, but I didn’t know what internal communications was. I’d never heard of it before. I didn’t even know these people existed in organisations, helping people communicate better with each other.

So that was about 16 years ago, and I fell in love with it. I’ve never really left the profession. So I worked in-house for 16 years, and it was only in January 2020, I set up my consultancy called Comms Rebel, which is an internal communications and employee engagement experience consultancy up in… Well, I’m in Manchester. I always say, “up,” because I just assume that everybody is further south to me.

Anna:               Everything north of London is up, right? But I’m definitely down. I’m as far down in the UK as you can get pretty much so you’re definitely up from me.

Advita:             Yeah. So then I set up Comms Rebel in 2020, and then as everybody knows, six weeks, eight weeks later, we had the pandemic, which was a bit of a eek moment I’m not going to lie, especially because I spent the two years previously planning to set my own business up.

You do everything that people tell you to do, don’t you? Like, oh, do your business plan, find your niche, get your personal brand sorted. Did all of that. Got my customer avatar, all that kind of stuff that people tell you. My funnel. And then six weeks later all that went out the window, and I was just stranded, if you want to call it that, for at least three to four weeks, and when I was debating whether I should go back and work in corporate life again. But yeah, it was a interesting experience.

Anna:               Well, let’s dig into that in a moment, the challenges. I find it quite funny and relatable how you described how you ended up in that marketing job. That’s fantastic that you met a mentor. I think you were lucky there. I applied to marketing job having studied something completely different, international relations, and I arrived at the interview. I had no idea, and they had a brochure in the interview room funnily enough that was about PR and I said to them ridiculously, “Oh, this sounds interesting too.”

So I had applied to a marketing job, and I wasn’t even particularly committed in that session because I didn’t know even what Procter & Gamble was or marketing whereas of course there are other people around me who had recognised and worked for several years to work in that company because it’s an amazing company. So I think I was lucky in a way that they even brought me in. But it’s funny how little you know about what different careers entail when you come out of school and university. It’s quite a big ask to get us to make the right decision when we have no formal work experience or understanding of the working place, I guess.

Advita:             Oh, [inaudible 00:05:34].

Anna:               But before we get into the challenges then, Advita, it sounds like you loved the work, so what was it that led you to make that transition or take the decision to leave that more corporate environment to work for yourself and do all those amazing things that you said, business planning and avatars and so on?

Advita:             For me, it got to the stage where I was a little bit tired of other people making the decision on when I should progress and how I should progress, and where I should go next. And that’s the thing about corporate life. And I did love… Don’t get me wrong, Anna, I loved working where I worked and the people, and I loved that team spirit and the community that you’re part of, and it’s great. However, it was a little bit tedious in terms of… I felt like I had such a greater purpose in terms of the things I wanted to do, yet I was still waiting for permission from my leaders to say, “Right, Advita, you’re good enough now to go to this next stage. Right, Advita, you need to go and do this training.”

And I think I had hit that kind of midlife crisis if you want to call it that. I was approaching a big birthday, and I thought to myself, “If I don’t take this leap of faith in my own abilities right now, I’m just never going to do it.” I always kind of worked… Grew up, sorry, in an entrepreneur household. My parents never worked for other people. They always had their own businesses, and I suppose in a way that put me off working for myself when I graduated.

Anna:               That’s interesting.

Advita:             Because I saw the struggles they went through every day for the years I grew up. They sold their business about 10 years ago, but for 35 years… Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of benefits and peaks and everything but when it got bad, it was bad. Cash flow, money, not being able to figure out where the next paycheck was coming from because business is rocky. We all know that. Entrepreneurs know that. And that’s something that I was not prepared to do when I first graduated because I just wanted a regular income. I wanted to just go in, do my job.

But like you said, as you grow in your career and as you start developing and start understanding who you are a little bit more, that desire to carve out your own destiny, it was just too much for me. So I thought, you know what, I need to do it and I gave myself six months. So I saved up a pocket of money, enough to pay mortgage for like six months and I gave myself a deadline, which is why it took me two years to finally take the leap because I wanted to have enough contingency in my back pocket, so then I wouldn’t take on stuff that I didn’t want to do out of fear.

I’m so grateful that I had that advice to save up that contingency because if I hadn’t had that contingency, in that four week lull when pandemic hit, I think I would have gone back in-house because I had a job offer waiting for me and I thought, “Do you know what? I could have easily just taken it,” but because I knew had that bucket and that money part of that would pay the basics. I was okay. And that’s the advice I would actually give to any listeners who are contemplating leaving corporate life to just make sure that you have got your finances in check because that is the one fear I think or one of the biggest fears that could hold people back.

Anna:               It’s a big vague fair I find because we’re all worried about money and oh, will I earn enough money, but we haven’t actually sat down as you say and looked at what is enough money and what does that… Do we need as much of a salary as we had in corporate? In fact, often we need more because then we have business expenses. We don’t get all the benefits that we get in a corporate job, but for some people we can actually get by on less. It’s just an arbitrary number that we happen to have been receiving as our corporate salary. But definitely looking at those figures, of course, can really help you to get to grips with that.

I also find it really interesting how you said that you had the entrepreneurial upbringing, I guess, and that put you off because I think a lot of us have the opposite. Maybe our baby boomer parents were not entrepreneurial, and they had that sort of lifetime job through to pension, and that either put us off, I suppose, that corporate environment or perhaps just laid the groundwork for that was the expectation. So it’s quite fascinating how good and bad experiences growing up can really shape the beliefs you have, the frame of reference, I guess, we have for those career choices.

Advita:             Yeah, definitely. And I loved the fact that my parents had… They carved out their own destiny. They decided on what they want to do, what they didn’t want to do, and I love that part of that freedom that they had, but what I didn’t love was everything else that came with it like you just said. And I think the rest is vague fear and I like the fact that you said it’s a vague fear around money because people just don’t, in UK in particular, we’re just not very good about talking about finances and what’s involved, and we’re a little bit coy, aren’t we, with everything. And we’re like, [inaudible 00:10:16] and we kind of underestimate, I would say, the kind of money we need, or sometimes we overestimate.

And it’s funny that you said about the vague finance because the first thing I did was a spreadsheet with what I need to survive cash-wise and what’s nice to have and what I need to survive was much less than I anticipated, to be honest. And I thought, “Actually, I can do this.” If I earned this bare minimum, I had a target, if I can earn this bare minimum, then I’ll be okay. And that’s reassured me. And again, that’s what people should be doing rather than hiding it away and not wanting to look at the bank accounts and a little bit worried about what they’re spending their money on.

Really embrace it because I do think… The money thing. If we were a little bit more open with each other about the cash flow and all that kind of stuff, then I think more people would have that entrepreneurial spirit. And that is something I learned from my parents because my parents were very open about money-

Anna:               Oh, good.

Advita:             … and how long it takes to earn that pound and how easy it is to spend that pound and how we should be looking at cash flow and profit and loss and all that kind of… TAC sheets, and so I learned that language quite early on, which is quite good for me. I would say it’s a benefit.

Anna:               It’s funny. That makes me think because my mom forced us to have these little accounting books where we had to… And I found that really often it said it doesn’t add up, and then I would just have to fudge the numbers, which is probably not the best exercise in managing your figures. But it was always, yeah, if we’d been given money by a parent or grandparents, we had to put that in, and then I bought sweets and so on.

You’d think that would lay a good foundation for me. For whatever reason, I didn’t make that connection, so it’s taken me longer to get around to that. But as you say, it’s quite powerful both to see as reassuring if you need less, but it’s also a good warning flag, I suppose, if you realise, no, actually I’m not in a position yet, so I need to build my savings, or I need more of a runway in terms of client pipeline and so on.

In terms of other support that you got to make this transition. In particular, I guess first initially before the dreaded C-word COVID came along, how did you know how to pull together your business plan and so on? And then when that hit, how did you, I guess continue? How were you able to have the confidence and resilience to keep going and actually, as we’ll hear in a moment, start a couple of different businesses actually in the last year?

Advita:             So my first job, the marketing officer job that was actually internal comms was actually in a mentoring and coaching programme, which was brilliant for me. So I have that experience so early on and because I’ve been informally mentored by Catherine when I first started to investigate marketing, I knew the power of mentors and I understood why it was really good to invest in a coach. So I was privileged to be surrounded by some amazing mentors who own their own businesses and worked in the same field as me.

One of which was a woman called Priya Bates who’s based in Canada and Priya was a South Asian woman working in the same field as me and I saw her doing the work that I wanted to aim towards, the goals that I had. So I reached out to her and said, “Would you be able to support me while I kind of transition into my Comms Rebel work?” And she was really supportive. And this is what I say to people who are a little bit nervous about asking people to help, to mentor, or to support, is just go for it because the only thing that can say is no. That’s the only thing. And then you just move on to somebody else. So I was prepared.

Anna:               And most people are happy to help, aren’t they?

Advita:             Yeah.

Anna:               They want to share their wisdom and guide younger people.

Advita:             Exactly. If they can’t help you themselves, then 99% of the time they’ll recommend somebody who can. I’ve never had anybody who’s just said a flat no. Never had anyone to go, “No. Not helping you.” They’ve always come back and said, “Oh, I’d love to support you, but I haven’t got this time in my diary at the moment, but here are a few names that you might want to speak to,” or, “Let me know what you’re after, and I’ll put it out into my network.” They’ll always go that extra step because most human beings are so considerate and friendly anyway, and we are surrounded by negative media, I know that, but never let that fear hold you back.

So I had a mentor in Priya, which is amazing. And then two of my very good friends, Jenny Field and Trudy Lewis, who actually are in the Incubator as Anna knows, they’ve been part of my journey for a long time. All three of us met when we were volunteering for our professional membership body called the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and all three of us connected, and then we just became really good friends, went to Vancouver together for a world conference.

Anna:               Amazing.

Advita:             I know. That trip sealed our friendship, and we sealed it over a gin and Cheetos because we landed quite late in Vancouver. We didn’t want to go and look for a restaurant, and we all walked into the shop, the store and headed towards the Cheetos. They were like, “Do you like Cheetos? Do you like Cheetos?”

Anna:               What a great bonding experience.

Advita:             I know. And we grabbed a bottle of gin. So they really supported me. And without them three, I think I would have struggled. And they kept me steady when I was a bit shaky and I really kind of… Procrastination is one of my big things, and they really kept me focused, which is just such a good thing to have in your life I would say.

Anna:               So mentors and also peers in a way to empathise with you when you’re struggling, to share their struggles and advise you and vice versa, right?

Advita:             Yeah.

Anna:               That’s really great… They always say find your tribe, whether it’s a free Facebook group, especially at the moment I guess we have to rely on online groups, but if you can meet and share some snacks that’s obviously an extra level of friendship.

Advita:             And then, so the great thing about being mentored Priya is when that crisis hit Priya experienced a similar kind of lull. Well, all my comms consultant friends did, to be honest. So when Priya and I connected, we started talking about why… We were getting to know each other, and she’s like, “So why did you leave corporate life?” And I explained what I did with you just a moment ago about wanting to carve out my own destiny.

But the part of that was also never really seeing people who looked like me in senior positions. And if I really am honest with myself, a part of me was thinking, “If I’m not seeing women or women of colour sitting in board positions in the organisations that I work in, then what hope do I have to get there?” And as much as you churn away, churn away, if you don’t see leaders who look like you, it does kind of knock you a bit, and imposter syndrome plays a big part in that and then your inner critic, and you think, “I’m never going to make it.”

We spoke about this quite openly, and Priya had exactly the similar, well, exactly the same experience actually, but just 15 years before. So when we had a chat, we were like, nothing’s really… We talk about diversity and inclusion and belonging, quite a lot. In corporate organisations, they talk about it all the time and especially in the last 18 months with everything that’s gone on around the globe. So we came up with another business idea as we were just chatting, and we said, “How cool would it be if we could create a community?” Like you just said Anna, bring your people together. People who are like-minded, who want to progress and thrive and have a support network around them, so they don’t feel like the only option is to leave if they don’t want to.

Luckily, I wanted to, so that was absolutely fine, but I also know people who didn’t want to leave corporate life but felt they had no option but to leave and to set their own business up. But what if you wanted to stay? Or what if once you do set your own business up, and you don’t have a community like I did, like mentors and coaches to support you, where do you go then? You’re kind of on your own, and you feel a bit lonely. So we created our second business called… My second business, sorry, called A Leader Like Me.

And I suppose that was the universe speaking to me at that time, because that allowed me to really focus my energies and my nervous energy into that business model while it was a bit quiet for Comms Rebel, and it thrived as we kind of expected. But I suppose what we didn’t expect was the global reach that we’ve got with A Leader Like Me, and it flew because it just demonstrated the need for something like our membership and programme, which is a 12-week programme aimed to help women of colour build their confidence, so they can go out and step out and reach out to individuals and speak to people about giving themselves the credit that they deserve basically because of what we discovered…

And women, in general, are like this as well. We’re not very good at crediting ourselves with the good work that we do. We can be a bit dismissive of the work that we do.

Anna:               Absolutely.

Advita:             We’re a bit like, “Oh, it wasn’t me. And it didn’t take me too long, and we did it. It was a team effort. We did it all.” We do that a lot, which is… It’s great, and it’s great that we are so empathetic, and we’re supportive, but sometimes you just need to say, “Actually, I worked damn hard to get to where I am, and I’m going to recognise that in myself.” And that’s what we teach and support the wonderful women that we have working with us on that.

And it’s been such a powerful programme and in a way, COVID has brought a lot of misery and it’s been a terrible time for a lot of people but for me, if I’m looking at one tiny positive, it was definitely having that time to really focus and develop a programme that I and Priya are really proud of.

Anna:               And that’s such a great example of taking the opportunity in a difficult situation, especially when you’ve come out there enthusiastically wanting to share your expertise with the world and then suddenly something huge like this hits that you’re able to make those connections thanks to the mentors and peers that you were in contact with. Identify an opportunity.

And it’s really depressing to hear that nothing had changed in 15 years, that you still had such a parallel experience. And then that such a powerful initiative has come out of the ashes, I guess, of quite a difficult time, and it’s great to see that even if there is a lull when there inevitably at some point is a lull, maybe in our clients coming and so on, that you’re able to shift your focus and build something so meaningful. And it’s working, as you said, and having that global reach.

From a business standpoint then, that’s really exciting. And I guess Comms Rebel is now up and running and that’s something you’re pursuing more as we’re coming out of lockdown and so on, or how are you balancing the different projects that you have?

Advita:             Oh, focus is definitely a big thing. And in Youpreneur this week, I was actually called queen of focus because I can’t… I am a bit like a magpie. I can go off here, there and everywhere, so I have to be really-

Anna:               Shiny objects. Love, shiny objects.

Advita:             Shiny objects. I am like, “Ooh, this looks good or this looks good,” but I have had to be really focused in allocating my days to the work that I do. So Comms Rebel is my main income stream. So that’s what brings in the most cash for me at the moment. So my balance is always more on Comms Rebel.

And then I dedicate a day and a half to A Leader Like Me as we’re building that because we’re still in startup mode. We’re still in growth. And it’s going to take a long time I think for a lot of people… When it comes to anything with diversity, inclusion, and belonging, it takes people a while to be comfortable enough to either A) Know that they need some support, B) Understand that they’re worth investing in, and C) Just acknowledge that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay. It’s all right. And the language around diversity, equity and inclusion, it does scare people a little bit.

So we acknowledge, Priya and I, that that business model is going to take a while to grow. So we dedicate a day and a half to it where we nurture the members that we’ve already got. We open the programme three times a year, so it allows us time to breathe and to sort things out, and improve on the previous cohort. So we’re being very kind to ourselves. And I think that’s very important when you do set up multiple businesses that you get your ducks in a row in one of them. So Comms Rebel is great and it kind of runs quite nicely. I’m into a nice pattern now. And so now I can focus a little bit more energy on A Leader Like Me.

But what I would advise is that multiple businesses are great, but don’t overstretch yourselves because then imposter syndrome and inner critic starts kicking in when things don’t start going your way because you’ve added too much onto your plate. I have to say this to myself a lot as well because I’m guilty of sometimes overloading my plate.

Anna:               Aren’t we all?

Advita:             So then I need to step back, reflect and take things off because I want to succeed, and I want to make sure that my purpose is being achieved in everything that I do. So I’m quite conscious of that as well. So it’s taken me a long time I know. It wasn’t an overnight thing. It’s been a growing experience for me in the last year to understand how I work independently with no team around me, and that took a bit of mind trick.

Anna:               There’s a lot of self-awareness and development, isn’t there? And it’s an interesting point about that [inaudible 00:22:53] career and the imposter syndrome that comes up.

And I have had that experience when I was younger. I loved so many different things. A bit of a geek maybe, but I sort of liked both maths and science and history and humanities and languages and so on. I pretty much tried every musical instrument, every sport, but it meant that I was never really good at anything. And whichever environment I was in, whether I was, I don’t know, playing tennis or playing netball or running, I always felt like I wasn’t quite as good as the other people because everybody else, not everybody else, but a lot of other people had focused much more than I had.

I had a friend who did grade eight piano and flute whereas I just sort of did grade one or maybe three or five or something of lots of different things. And that suited me, but it did mean that I didn’t ever have that full confidence. “Wow. I’m excellent at this thing that I’m doing.” So I think the focus, as you said, of really knowing, and as you said, also aligning it with your purpose, having that bigger mission that you’re working towards and then also really pragmatically, having certain days allocated to certain things.

I also love the model that you have of continuing what you’ve been doing in your previous career with the communications work. I think that’s always a great model to sort of have the consulting, freelancing, whatever form that might take, on the one hand as you build, as you say, the startup phase of something bigger that you’re incredibly passionate about, but won’t necessarily bring in the income right away.

So from a lifestyle perspective, what are some of the benefits that you’re getting from now having that freedom and being able to follow your passion with these different projects that you’re doing?

Advita:             The biggest benefit is being able to do what I want to do, to be honest, and not having to do a business case. I seem to have worked in organisations that needed a business case for absolutely everything, whether that was a course that I wanted to go on, whether it was a new programme I wanted to bring in, whether it was a new piece of tech that I needed. It was always a business case. You always had to do the work, and I understand the value. You have to do it in corporates. You have to prove the value and the return on investment and I completely get it.

In a way, I do balance that in my own business, but it’s my decision. So I get to decide whether I want to sell pin badges, for example, because I love pin badges, and it’s never going to make me a millionaire, but the fact that I could just get in touch with my designer and say, “Can you create me three pin badges on my favourite quotes, and I’ll just put them on my shop?” Just that freedom to do that. And I was like, “Oh my goodness, I can do that.” And I’ve achieved it.

I’ve always wanted to kind of get into creating my own little special pin badges that I love, and other people can buy and enjoy that as well. So that’s a very practical example, but the other things is being able to just kind of say, “No, I don’t really want to work on that project because it doesn’t align with my values,” or “I don’t want to work with that client because they irritate me.” And I know I’m not going to get my best self.

Anna:               Definitely need that one.

Advita:             Whereas in organisations, you don’t really have that choice. You got to do what you got to do. And you may like that leader, you may not like that leader, but you’ve got to be professional to work it. Whereas in your own business, if they don’t align with your values or your purpose, and they’re not bringing you joy, or they’re not bringing… You’re not allowing yourself to put your strength out there.

And I completely understood what you meant about wanting to try everything. I was exactly the same, Anna. So I played the saxophone, the piano, the clarinet. I never did any of them brilliantly because I wanted to go into different things whereas a friend of mine who just did the piano, she was exactly the same. Went up all the way. Could have been playing in the various different concerts and all that kind of stuff. And I realised quite early on that I needed to be a master of my trade and not a Jack of all.

So I focus on the things that bring me joy, which is measurement in comms, inclusivity, diversity, those kind of areas. And I probably wouldn’t do the work technically I could do, but if I passionately, whether I’m passionate about it, no I wouldn’t. So I love that flexibility that it gives you. If you asked me eight months ago, I probably would have said, “Oh, I love the fact that you can just take a day off and go for a walk in the park and I love the fact that you can finish early and do this.”

Now I’ve not managed to take a day off in about six months and I’ve never managed to finish early in the last six months either just because we’re building. We’re in building phase at the moment. So every moment, I suppose, spare moment I have is that we’re working on my startup and that takes up a lot of time and energy. I’m hoping I’ll be able to reap the benefits in six months time when we start bringing on more people and more support and that’s really important as well, to understand what support you need so you can free up time so you do bring that balance back into your life. But I was prepared for that because my mentors and my coach kind of prepared me that the startup phase is going to be a lot of investment of time and that’s what I was-

Anna:               And not just the startup phase. I mean, you have two, perhaps possibly even three businesses going on, so it’s not so surprising that it’s difficult to find the time to take off but that’s a choice that you’re making, as long as you’re doing that intentionally.

Advita:             Exactly.

Anna:               I think that’s something that you’re happy with as long as you’re keeping an eye on that then. But I love that, that you’re able to have… As you said, some people might want to start a product business. They’re lots of coaches we want to have a planner or as you said inspirational quotes, and it might not make the millions, but hey, if you want to do that and something creative, and it’s something you’re passionate about, why not add that on? I think in business; I guess in terms of this shiny object syndrome, and we’re talking about the musical instruments, have you heard of the T-shaped marketer or the T-shaped concept?

I think you sort of have the breadth of understanding a little bit about everything, and then you have a depth on something. And I think that suits quite a lot of us in terms of having… For example, I came from a digital marketing background, and I wasn’t an SEO expert, but I understood search, and I wasn’t an expert on banners and affiliate marketing or whatever, but I understood enough to sort of operate in those fields. And then I had a specialty in branding and content and so on, and I think that’s quite a nice way.

The other thing I guess is that you can do a lot of things, maybe not everything, but a lot, but you can’t do them all at the same time I think. So sort of having some kind of sequencing, I guess. What other advice would you give someone, especially someone perhaps who’s been a bit set back by the difficult circumstances of the last year, maybe they were planning on leaving, or they did start-up, and they’re not quite getting the traction they want, perhaps they aren’t as lucky as you having those mentors and peers around them, what words of wisdom or reassurance could you give someone like that?

Advita:             I would say if you’re struggling is take a step back from what’s happening and be really objective with what you’re trying to do because most people that I speak to through… Because I coach people in visibility and confidence as well. And normally, when I speak to my coachees who have come to me for confidence kind of work is because they are not allowing themselves to be open to change, and we fear change a little bit more.

So I would say, look at what you’re offering and if you’re struggling to bring clients in, it’s normally, and I am kind of like doing a bit of a blanket approach here, but it’s normally because you haven’t been clear on your offering and people don’t know what you’re bringing to them. And also you may not be hanging about where they are hanging about… Your clients, because you haven’t done your client avatar. What is your client? Who’s your perfect client? What do they look like? Where do they hang about? What is it that you’re selling to them? As Chris Ducker says, Chris says it all the time, doesn’t he, Anna? What problem are you trying to solve for them? Really think about that and be quite clear.

The second tip I would give is don’t be scared to bring somebody in to help you. So one of the things that I recognised quite early on in my business, probably about six months in actually was that I was not very good at admin. Because when I worked in-house, I had a team administrator that did all the bookings and stuff to an extent, and I’ve never really had to do too much of the admin myself, and then I really struggled in the first six months about getting back to meeting requests, booking meetings, on Zoom, messing about with transcripts and all that kind of stuff. So I took the plunge, and I wasn’t earning a huge amount at that point, but I did take the plunge to invest in a virtual assistant to help get me back some control because I was struggling a lot at that point.

So after speaking to a few people who had VAs and part of the Youpreneur community as well, Chris Ducker is obviously a specialist in this area, I decided to invest, but I decided to invest in a VA that’s based in the UK. I know a lot of people go international for theirs, but I really wanted somebody who was on my timeframe to ease me in, because I am very protective of the work that I do and can be a bit of a micromanager sometimes because the perfectionist, that imposter syndrome, perfectionist comes in a little bit, but Kelly has been a lifesaver for me, and she has been really supportive of the work that I do, and it’s allowed me to have a bit of breathing room.

So get that help. Don’t think that just because you’ve had a business for three months or four months, you can’t… If you can work out your sums and if you can spare three, four hours worth of admin every week, then invest in that. Don’t think that you can’t because you have to invest in things like that to give you this room to grow and develop otherwise you’re going to get bogged down and go into procrastination mode.

And the final tip I would give to everybody is go and find a community that you can get support from. So for me, it was Youpreneur. So Youpreneur’s been part of my life for three years. I went along to the summit, the very first summit three years ago, and then I enjoyed Chris’s personality. It aligned with me. I liked his enthusiasm. I was a little bit worried that it was going to be very American, no offence to any American listeners, but like clappy and joyous and all that. It is a little bit like that. It’s not hugely like that, but I love-

Anna:               A bit [inaudible 00:32:36] with the British culture, right?

Advita:             Yeah, exactly.

Anna:               So, it’s a good middle ground.

Advita:             A flavour, peppering of Britishness in there. But I love the fact that there’s somebody there, there’s a community with people like yourself in there who can keep me accountable, who inspires me. Chris keeps us accountable. Everybody’s kind of in the same boat in this kind of club that we’ve got, and we can reach into that space and be like, “Can somebody help me with an accounting software? Can somebody help me with getting this?” And just knowing I’ve got that crutch and that support community has been really powerful for me.

So what I would say to people is find that group that works for you. It may not be Youpreneur. It may not be whatever but find that. There’s loads of amazing people out there who are doing some great things in building communities. Find the community that works for you.

Anna:               That’s so important. And I think that will shift, and you can and will evolve. I mean, I’ve got clients who have followed me pretty much since the beginning and who’ve been part of my different offerings as I’ve been finding my feet, which is amazing. And now I have programmes that they can grow with me as well. And it’s so nice to have those familiar faces, both for them and for me to know these people. They know and trust me, but I’m sure there’ll be a point at which actually it’ll serve them better to go off and work with somebody else to get a different perspective. Maybe someone who’s a specialist in their particular technical or creative field, or actually now I want to build a big team so somebody who’s an expert in that.

So I agree with you. The community is so important. Being able to outsource to somebody. I know it’s such a struggle when we’re starting. We don’t have a lot of money and so on, but really even if you start with something like five, or I always say, get somebody to do some graphics or whatever it is that you’re not particularly good at. It’s such a good practise to get into that from the beginning.

And I love what you said as well. First of all, in terms of getting clear on the strategy. We can think, “Oh, I’ve done that so many times, and I just need to do stuff now,” but it’s true that taking time to take a step back can give you the foundation then to leap forward. And I think I agree with you that often there’s a disconnect in the strategy. We’re just not a hundred percent. We’ll never be a hundred percent, but I think we’re not clear enough, confident enough that we’re on the right track to then execute consistently, and we’re constantly wasting time on rethinking things.

But thank you so much, Advita, for those three insights. And you’ve shared a lot already as well throughout the interview. Where can we find out more about Leader Like Me and Comms Rebel and where can we buy your inspirational pins? Tell us where we can find you online.

Advita:             You can find my pins on CommsRebel.com and you can find out what I do as well in terms of consultancy work on that and coaching. So like I said, I do coaching for confidence and visibility, which is something that’s really important to me. And then for A Leader Like Me, find me on ALeaderLikeMe.com and you can follow us on socials under my name. And that’s one of the benefits of having a unique name. You can normally Google me, and I’m out there. So I’m on most of the social channels apart from TikTok. I am not. I’ve not put myself on that.

Anna:               Oh, come on Advita. Get with the kids.

Advita:             I know and people keep telling me. I’m not on TikTok, but I normally hang about on Instagram and Twitter. So if anybody wants to have a chat, I’m always open for a chat.

Anna:               I’ll be sure to link those in the show notes as well. I, unfortunately, don’t have a unique name. I do luckily have a dad who was very ahead of his time and he got me AnnaLundberg.com originally, but I do usually need to use my middle initials on social. And unfortunately, there’s a famous actor who has now a Swedish girlfriend with my name, who’s monopolised my online presence. So I’m trying to claw it back with some [inaudible 00:35:59]. So you’re very lucky to have that unique platform. But again, I’ll link to those websites as well.

Thank you so much, Advita, for your time today, for sharing your experience, and being so open about it. So many relatable experiences there and really inspiring and reassuring as well. So thank you so much, and I’m looking forward to following the next steps of your journey.

Advita:             Thank you, Anna. I really loved today’s chat.

If you’d like to create your own transition story and escape the nine to five to work for yourself then come and join us over in the Business Incubator. This is a comprehensive online programme and community designed to give you the roadmap that you need to help you figure out what you really want to do, come up with a workable plan and take the right steps to achieve it. Read more and join us over on OneStepOutside.com/9to5. That’s OneStepOutside.com/9to5.

If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:

Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall

Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate

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